I am Nondi Nomkhita Ntombehlanga Mamntambo Vokwana born Nondi Cungwa on the 30th October 1981. I’m what they would call a bastard child, my parents Zikisa Vokwana and Xoliswa Cungwa were both in High School when they had me. My mother was in grade 11 and dad doing his Matric in different areas of the Eastern Cape, they are both Western Cape born. Naturally I grew up with my mother’s side of the family, with two cousins who were more like brothers to me Sonwabisi and Thando Cungwa. We were brought up by my grandmother’s sister who was a biological grandmother to my brothers, while my mother was still finishing school in the Eastern Cape. My biological grandmother resolved into alcohol after her divorce with my grandfather whom I have never seen and only heard of when they mentioned he was dead. I was really surprised I thought the man was dead already.
I received my first heart break in the early 90’s when my biological grandmother died. As young as I was, I knew that I have never felt such pain in my life and therefore I resented death and all that came with it.
When my brother was born on the 16 the November 1988. My parents married and we moved to my paternal grandparent’s house as tradition would have it. My mother had to go through the ‘ukuhota’ process, where you stay with the in-laws for a certain period (if memory serves me right we stayed there for a period of three years).
My parents bought their own house in 1993 which we still possess. The following year was when I can say my life actually began, I got to be introduced to this new life of being with my parents and siblings under one house hold. I must say, I really didn’t fit in with the new arrangements just like I wasn’t comfortable with the one before. I always saw myself as a Cungwa belonging to the Jola clan.
As much as they sold drugs in my previous home, we as the children felt love from everyone in my family and we were a big family held together by sisters (all my grandmother’s sisters) who kept the family strong. There was laughter and the only time of sorrow was when death creeped up and snatched a family member.
The family would sit around the fire at night and we the children would listen to our aunts and uncles tell stories of their times and about the things that happened during the wild times at home (16 Mengo Street) before any of us were born. My mother’s family dealt with drugs as a family business which then means money was not scarce. Some family members drank and some smoked weed but there were no fights, unless someone from outside touched one of them or when my uncles were involved in domestic disputes as most of them stayed with their girlfriends, then they would unleash the beast in them.
On the other hand when I got introduced to my father’s side of the family everything was completely opposite of the life I knew and loved. My father was the bread winner, he was the only one who pushed himself at school and went further through a sport scholarship as he was excellent in soccer as a goalie. The school he attended had no soccer, so he transformed to rugby for the first time in his life. He became so good they nicknamed him Pro, his coach said you play the game as if you have before, just like a Pro.
When he came back for the holidays his friends would call him ‘Ta Pro’, to this day, he is still known by that and he has been gone for 18 years. I was in Grade nine when he took his life and I can’t say I was a closet case then. Growing up in the small township like mine (Kayamandi), I never came across the word lesbian let alone meet one, honestly I never thought there was such a thing as a lesbian or knew what a lesbian is.
My father’s dad worked in white people’s gardens and my grandmother she worked in their kitchen and cleaned their house on a typical day. They struggled; but managed somehow. Together they had seven children six boys and one girl. My aunt also worked hard and she followed policing and now owns a house and a car in the same street as my father’s house.
I never knew my aunt very well since she was at the Police Academy when we stayed with my grandparents and I would see her every now and again. I mentioned that from my first family I have never encountered violence within our home, yes there would be quarrels but nothing hectic.
My uncle who is a third born from my father’s side of the family showed me a whole lot of massive violence which still haunts me to this day because at times my father would not be around and I would feel so unsafe.
The fights in my father’s family caused by my uncle would involve ou kappies, axes, machete and bricks thrown in the house through the window.
That was a norm on weekends and it was traumatic to me as I had no say as to where I wanted to be.
We then moved into our new subsidy house, my father worked for government so we were alright. My father’s family were not really fond of my mom, I guess they believed she stole him from them. But I believe they complemented each other as they were both wise financially and taking care of our home. Our lives changed, my brother and I moved from local schools to the suburb schools.
Then that was when my life became interesting, meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds. In 1995 I attended Helderkruin Primary School in Meltonrose and travelled by train.
I had my first crush with a girl named Lynne and with that I started noticing plenty of pretty girls which was weird seeing that I still didn’t understand what I was feeling but it was strong for the girls. When we got to Helderkruin there were only two black pupils, it was siblings who lived in a neighbouring area Eesterrivier. I got involved in athletics and school drama. My first gig was as a translator in a musical which won in juniors where we represented the Western Cape in Pretoria, Gauteng and we won there too.
I was so proud to be part of it and made my little mark at my new school as an actor and athlete and for someone who was learning everything in English for the first time it was good.
I became popular with the girls too which was all that mattered. Yes, school work was there somewhere too, I mean I was a teenager some priorities over weighed others. I didn’t know what a lesbian is but what I was feeling was good. Flirting with the girls at my primary school became a norm with my friends, I was living a dream which always ended when our train reached our destination Du Toit which was our train station. It was more like welcome to reality. We were seven pupils coming from Kayamandi which meant we were nine in total of IsiXhosa speaking pupils at Helderkruin Primary School back in 1995.
The year 1996 I had to do Grade eight, my mother of course without my knowledge and go ahead opted to enrolled me at a school in Stellenbosch. It is a multi-racial school called Rhenish Girls’ High School. When we received a big envelop from the school stating that I was accepted at their school, I was like ‘WHAT’ welcome to have Vokwana and it sure was a school full of nothing but girls all for me to feast my eyes on, oh I couldn’t wait for that year to come.
As much as it started as though it was playing, I knew that this is reality for me, having these beautiful feelings for pretty girls. Little did I know it will soon be discouraged by someone I respected and didn’t get backup from my friends whom I trusted and felt comfortable sharing my feelings about girls with. I was scared about being known locally as I was unsure of the reactions I would get from some backward community members and most importantly my dad.
One day I walked in my friend’s house. I was standing in the kitchen and could hear her mother asking my friends about their boyfriends I was in grade 9 then and never dated anyone before. Some of my friends by then were already engaging in sexual intercourse and that was too far from my mind.
As she was asking them she said “this girl Nondi, who is her boyfriend?
I have never seen her with anyone and doesn’t she touch you girls? I don’t trust her’.
To be honest hearing those words and the laughter that followed cut me like a knife deep and sore. The first boy that proposed a relationship to me I said yes, I just didn’t want these rumours circulating and I was not even sure of what I was doing. In all of that I knew that I will not be engaging in sex, I was really scared of my father it was as if he will know so the thought of that restrained me from all of that. Now the funny part I had curfews on Saturday I was to be at home at 21:00 at least.
So now I was dating this boy and every second he got to be around me he would ask when are we going to have sex. This for me got to be boring because I was not going to engage in something I knew I was not ready for. At first I started telling him that he will have to wait seven years so that I can be at least 21 years of age. He became persistent so much so I told him he can have sex with other girls it is fine by me because I will not be giving in.
At some point in grade 10 I did not see the point of dating as I knew this boy/girl relationship thing was not for me, so then when I was in grade 11 in the beginning of that year I stopped dating altogether. I saw it as getting in the way of my having fun with friends because now I had to have this boy that I am not related to, to care for, hai I was not having that. Grade 11 and 12 I was single and loving it.
October of 2000 I lost my virginity after our Matric valedictory celebrations at our school’s hostel to a beautiful girl in my grade. She was experienced and a little older than me. It was my first time and we did or rather she did me three more times that night, I think I slept smiling the whole night and I played that night over and over in my head. Until I went to Port Elizabeth and had my first real relationship with a Port Elizabeth born girl and from there on there was no turning back for me. I was in heaven baby, away from home and living my life as a lesbian. All I did was to befriend gays and lesbians I had no use for heterosexuals in my personal life.
My golden life almost ended when I was attacked by a drug addict who had a psychotic attraction on me and he hated homosexuals. I say psychotic because this person wanted to take out my eyes and put them in a glass jar filled with water and he said he would stare at them all day long. One morning after coming from a club he followed me home, luckily I had people sleeping over. He went crazy, started asking about my dresses and why I don’t have a man. He sat on my chest and asked me to turn and face my left side so that he can give me the same scar on my face that will look like his. As he stabbed me, I put my hand infront of my face and he stabbed me he squeezed blood from my hand and told me to suck it and then after he sucked my blood himself. He finally left after he asked where I will be at 14:00 that Sunday afternoon so I said I will be there waiting for him anything so that he can leave my space’. My landlord moved me to another flat after we called him and my mother.
Unfortunately I had to leave College and Port Elizabeth, that month of September 2002, I came to Cape Peninsula University of Technology. In 2003 and stayed in Gugulethu during that time with my aunt. My life restarted oh yes my haven came back to me again. I dropped out in my third year of schooling got petty jobs from 2005 until in 2011 I landed a career here at Vision Afrika, I started as a facilitator at the aftercare Grade 6 and 7 after volunteering at the crèche here. Over the years and also having to work with pupils from all levels: crèche, preschool, aftercare for Grades 1 – 7 and high school program from Grade 8 – 12, that made me realise I need to go back and finish school.
I was lost for a while, after working with the Grade 11 doing community based activities, I knew that teaching is my calling and I love children. By God’s grace our branch in 2015 opened a new school called Vision Afrika Primary School. I went to Boland College and enrolled for Early Childhood Development (ECD) which I am still currently busy with the last level.
Now I am an assistant IsiXhosa teacher at our independent school for Grade 1 English medium school.
My life as we know it now.
My life as we know it now is still blessed and I still want to continue with education and activism. Aluta Continua